If you are pregnant or planning to become so, it is important to understand the protections that the government offers you in the workplace. Nursing mothers are a protected class under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLCA).
This amendment came from the patient protection and Affordable Care Act, which the government made a law in 2010. According to the Department of Labor, under this amendment an employer must provide “reasonable break time” for a lactating employee.
What are the provisions?
An employer in any US state is legally required to extend “reasonable break time” for a lactating employee for up to one year after birth. In addition to providing the time, an employer must also provide a place that is not a bathroom but co-workers cannot see into in order to express milk.
The place provided to the lactating employee does not need to be a permanent “nursing room,” but it does need to be available at will. For instance, it would be permissible for an employee to express breast milk in a private office, provided that the office is lockable and nobody else can see into the room while the employee is pumping.
Are the breaks paid?
Under the FLCA an employer is not required to compensate a lactating employee for the time spent expressing milk. However, in the event that an employer offers compensated breaks, then the employer must allow the lactating employee to use a compensated break for pumping. The employer must also completely exempt the lactating employee from work during the pumping break, otherwise the employer must compensate the lactating employee.